Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is to close all of its leisure centres and public buildings – except where statutory services are to be delivered – with immediate effect.
As the decision was taken at an emergency meeting today (Monday), there have been fresh calls tonight for Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to follow suit.
ABC Council is not to meet until Thursday evening to discuss its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But Alliance Councillor Eoin Tennyson insists that is too long to wait.
He said: “Following updated scientific advice, I have written to the chief executive of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to request the immediate closure of all leisure centres and public facilities.
“This is a drastic, but necessary step in the interests of public health which remains our utmost priority.
“We encourage everyone to comply with the latest public health advice and look out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours in the week ahead.”
Newry Town Hall, Downshire Civic Centre and Monaghan Row will be open to the public for submission of planning and building control applications, the registration of births, deaths and marriages, and the household recycling centres will also remain open.
Access for the public to these buildings and sites will be managed in line with Public Health Agency (PHA) guidance.
Statutory council scheduled meetings will continue but will be ”under review with social distancing applied”.
Waste collection services will continue.
Decisions were taken at an emergency council meeting on Monday and will be looked at again on March 30.
A council spokesperson addressed concerns for those who have memberships to council-owned facilities.
She said: “As our leisure and sports facilities will be closed, all ‘paid in full’ members will have their membership term extended to reflect the closure.
“All direct debit memberships will be suspended until further notice with collections scheduled for the 1 and 15 April stopped. Direct debits will not recommence until facilities reopen and members have received the appropriate extensions to their membership.
“All centre programmes and courses such as swimming lessons will resume when facilities reopen.
“We ask anyone visiting our public buildings to be aware of the latest Public Health Agency advice.
“The current guidance is that if you have a high temperature and/or new continuous cough, everyone in your household must stay at home for 14 days.
“Newry, Mourne and Down District Council can be contacted by telephone on 0330 137 4000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Sinn Féin councillor Willie Clarke has welcomed the decisions taken.
He said: “At today’s meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, I proposed that all public buildings, with the exception of key services, be closed and that access to other services will be limited in order to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.
“I welcome the fact that this proposal was supported by other parties as part of our response to the growing public health crisis.”